I used to search for, and try anything and everything, that promised anxiety relief, ESPECIALLY if it promised quick relief or quick results! And although there are many amazing tools that will provide you with relief, the anxiety recovery journey is a journey. A journey that often doesn’t lead to quick relief or results.
Trust me, I know how frustrating this is to hear. Because you’re willing to work your butt off, and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to live a life that consists of more peace and joy, but part of doing whatever it takes involves accepting some things that aren’t so easy to accept. Let’s dive into the things that helped me most throughout my anxiety recovery journey so that I can further explain!
Accepting that I was on a journey. This means accepting that it’s going to take a little time and hard work to push past the things you’re currently struggling with. You’ve likely been reinforcing certain ideas, thoughts, and fears for months or even years, and it’s going to take a little time and practice to undo these unhealthy pathways and create new ones. Accepting that you’re on a journey will help you to focus more on the things that will actually help you to overcome, and less time spent focusing on how long it’s going to take to recover, or when exactly it’ll happen. The small steps are truly what leads to healing, peace, and joy.
Accepting me, anxiety and all. This is so important. You are not defined by your struggle with anxiety, panic disorder, or agoraphobia. Sure, you might be struggling with anxiety right now, and it likely feels like it consumes every part of you, but your struggle hasn’t and can’t take away all of the amazing parts of you. All of the stuff you used to be able to do, the stuff that you want to do, you are capable of it all, you’ve just gotta work on proving it to your brain!
Allowing myself to feel anxious. You are allowed to feel anxious. Anxiety is an emotion, and feeling it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you, or that you’re broken, or that you’re doing something wrong, or that you’ve taken 10 steps back, or that you’re not working hard enough. Allow yourself to feel anxious. Stop trying to avoid feeling it and pushing it away, because doing these things will only lead to more anxiety.
Putting me and my mental health first. This is a big one. Putting you and your mental health first looks like protecting your peace. It looks like...
Saying no to things, and to people (including yourself), that will only end up adding stress and overwhelm to your plate.
Setting boundaries with others and also with yourself.
Making self-care a priority.
Making healthy changes and choices, and practicing healthy habits daily. This also likely means you’ll have to undo some unhealthy habits and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Ending unhealthy relationships and fostering healthy ones.
Changing my relationship with my thoughts. Instead of trying to ignore, fight, or control your anxious thoughts, start acknowledging them, accepting them (but not as truth), and feeling your emotions, and then taking healthy action. And changing your relationship with your thoughts also looks like becoming aware of the stories you’re telling yourself, becoming aware of the messages you’re giving yourself, and using helpful tools like positive self-talk, challenging your thoughts, and self-compassion.
Embracing uncomfortability and uncertainty. This one is hard but has such big payoffs. Here’s the thing, uncomfortable things are uncomfortable, but facing them is what makes them less uncomfortable. And embracing uncertainty will help you to stop avoiding, stop resisting, and will help you to gain a much clearer and more realistic perspective. Because the reality is, you can’t make uncertain things certain, and by trying to, you’ll end up feeling more anxious, more panicky, and more fearful. The next time you face uncomfortability or uncertainty, acknowledge your thoughts and how you feel and do it anyway!
Being kind and gentle with myself. The recovery journey is hard, and being hard on yourself is only going to make your journey more challenging. Being kind and gentle with yourself is a must. This means working to change the stories and messages that you’re telling yourself, giving yourself kind messages often, celebrating your wins, and asking for support when you need it.
Educating myself. This means soaking up knowledge and information about what you’re struggling with and how you can heal. It’s extremely helpful to have a good understanding of what’s actually going on in your mind and body when you’re anxious, why it’s happening, and how you can work to have a better relationship with anxiety. Maybe it looks like reading books or blogs, taking an online course (like mine), listening to podcasts, going to therapy, following people on social media that share helpful knowledge, tools, and tips, or all of the above!
Sharing the hard, scary, and embarrassing stuff. Holding in your thoughts, fears, experiences, and anxious moments often leads to more anxious thoughts, more fear, more challenging experiences, and more anxious moments. I know that you’re likely worried that people will think that you’re crazy, or weird, or just plain silly, but the people you need in your life will support you. Sharing the hard stuff leads to relief because it gives these things less power.
Setting goals, taking small steps, and holding myself accountable. Goals are necessary. Action steps are necessary. And holding yourself accountable to taking these steps is important. I truly believe that the small steps are what leads to you reaching your goals and living the life you want and deserve to live. Don’t discount the impact that the small steps have. And always hold yourself accountable. Write down your goals and the action steps and make a plan!
And this is a good segue into the last one...
Reminding myself of my WHY. You need a why, and you need to remind yourself of your why often. Your why is what will keep you going no matter how hard things get. Why are you working to recover? Why are you pushing yourself? I’ll share a couple of my why’s with you. I’ve always been an adventurous person, and so one of my why’s was to be able to travel the world. Another of my why’s was to be able to help YOU overcome anxiety, panic disorder, or agoraphobia. I always told my mom, “When I recover, I will help as many people as I can to recover.” I know that this sounds so cliché but it’s the truth. I know that it’s possible, and one of my goals is to help others see, believe, and live it for themselves!
All of these things helped me immensely, and they’ll help you too. Remember, you are on a journey, and this journey IS leading you to lots of peace and joy.